Cryptocurrency hype “Hinders Search for Alien Life”

  • GPUs the high-powered computer chips are used in space examination.
  • The GPUs collects large amount of data when looking for aliens.
  • It is also used for Bitcoin Mining

Researchers at Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (Seti) are finding it hard to get the hardware they need to expand operations at two observatories. Reason? Cryptocurrency mining operation is on the rise all over and competing for the available computer chips.

With crypto mining operations likely to rise this year as cryptocurrencies gain popularity and price goes up, GPUs might be harder to find. They have not experienced the problem before, but their recent orders have issues.

“We’d like to use the latest GPUs [graphics processing units] … and we can’t get ’em,” said Dan Werthimer.

They want to improve capacity at Green Bank in West Virginia and Parkes in Australia. They have contacted the vendors who say they don’t have them.

It is limiting searching for an answer whether there is someone else out other than “us.” That might also signal another problem: that GPUs might cost more shortly.

The Hydrogen Epoch of Reionisation Array (Hera), is an American, British and South African project located in South Africa. It listens to low-frequency radio waves from reionizing hydrogen gas that permeated universe before the formation of first stars and galaxies.

Price aspect

It has many small radio telescopes and requires GPU to bring data from these. Although it had budgeted for $500 GPUs each, the price is now $1,000.

“We’ll be able to weather it, but it is coming out of our contingency budget,” added Prof Parsons. “We’re buying a lot of these things; it’s going to end up costing about $32,000 extra.”

Shortage in GPUs hit video game markets early this year according to reports. Nvidia chief executive said last week in a conference call that the company was “working hard” to “catch up with supply.”

He said GPU shortage could even cause stoppage of future work.

In addition to Ethereum, it is possible to mine some variants of Bitcoin using chips aimed at consumers. For instance, it is possible to get back costs from a six month’s crypto mining operation by stacking up 12 or 24 GPUs together depending on the value of electricity. The rise in crypto mining is also good news for chips manufacturers such as

Usually, GPUs are stacked together to power crypto miners, radio-astronomers or other data mining machines. Seti requires a lot of power. For instance, Berkeley station has around 100 GPUs crunching data from large listening arrays.

“At Seti we want to look at as many frequency channels as we possibly can because we don’t know what frequency ET will be broadcasting on and we want to look for lots of different signal types – is it AM or FM, what communication are they using?” explained Dr Werthimer, who is chief scientist at the Berkeley Seti Research Center.

The arrays pick even the faintest radio signals coming to the earth’s solar system from elsewhere in the universe. Example include signals from collapsing stars or other natural phenomena

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David Kariuki is a journalist who has a wide range of experience reporting about modern technology solutions including cryptocurrencies. A graduate of Kenya's Moi University, he also writes for Hypergrid Business, Cryptomorrow, and Cleanleap, and has previously worked for Resources Quarterly and Construction Review magazines.

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